ASX 100 rated on their SDG communications

by Carol A Adams

Main points:

  • ASX 100 rated on their self-proclaimed steps to contribute to the UN SDGs (along with the FTSE 250)
  • Banking sector in the lead – in communicating at least
  • Australian Senate Enquiry recommends that the government promote reporting on the SDGs and impact investing

Coinciding with an Australian Senate Inquiry recommendation for the development of guidance on reporting against the SDGs, a new initiative Support the Goals has just released a star rating of companies’ communications on their steps to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The report of the Senate Inquiry recommends (at 15) that:

the Australian Government partners with private and tertiary sector stakeholders to develop and disseminate Australian guidance on reporting against the Sustainable Development Goals in order to ensure consistent and transparent reporting.

The rating shows that such guidance is needed – but is not enough.

19 ASX 100 companies achieved a four-star rating compared with ten FTSE 100 companies.  But the rating does not measure the contribution (or negative impact) each business makes to the goals as this information is simply not available. Instead it provides a simple ‘traffic light’ rating to show if the business has completed four key steps and publicly shared the outcomes on their website.  The four key steps are:

  • Planning (communicating plans to support the SDGs most relevant to the business);
  • Commitments (publicly committing to support specific SDGs);
  • Actions (communicating actions which contribute to the SDGs);
  • Progress (disclosing measures of the contribution to the SDGs);

Interestingly, the 19 ASX companies with four stars (indicating a green traffic light for all four steps) included three of the big four banks, ANZ, NAB and Westpac whilst the Commonwealth Bank got three stars. Further investigation would be needed to determine the extent to which banks are contributing to the SDGs in reality, rather than, for example responding to the legitimation crisis that follows findings of misconduct by the banking Royal Commission.

Those companies wanting to better align their strategy with making a contribution to the SDGs are encouraged to follow the steps in this report which was mentioned in submissions to the Senate Inquiry by the Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand and the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia.

Colin Curtis, a co-Founder of the Support the Goals initiative said:

We started off rating the FTSE 100 companies and the rating has led companies to consider what they have to do to improve it.  We have seen companies make a concerted effort to develop a strategy to contribute to the SDGs and measure their progress as a result of the rating.  Some companies are being really innovative and the website provides examples to inspire others to take action.

Indeed, these examples support the recommendation (17) of the Senate Inquiry that:

the Australian Government… assesses opportunities to encourage sustainable public procurement, impact investment and business practices that support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Companies wanting to submit examples can do so here.

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